In what some people are calling a response to the “Arab Spring” that recently swept across Northern Africa, the extremist regime currently running the impoverished nation of Ethiopia has outlawed Skype and other VoIP services. The new law prohibits all VoIP traffic along with audio and video data traffic via social media.
The new law, which came into effect on May 24th, makes the use of VoIP services punishable by hefty fines and up to 15 years in prison. When asked about the new law, the government said that it “is intended to protect national security and protect the national, state-owned telecoms carrier from losing revenue to Skype and similar services.”
The problem with this is that only about 850,000 of the countries 85 million people have access to the internet. The 1% line penetration rate that Ethiopia has is the second worse in Africa behind Sierra Leone.
The other part of the law is that it also authorizes the government to inspect any imports of voice communication equipment and accessories, while also banning inbound shipments without prior permission.
This law is part of a recent crackdown in the last couple of years. The measures the government has gone through include shutting down some internet cafes that offered VoIP, and starting in 2006 they made it mandatory for internet cafes to keep records of the names and addresses of their customers in an effort to clamp down on bloggers and other users critical of the regime.
I feel bad for these people because they now have even less communication with the outside world. Like their country isn’t bad enough as it is.